It’s that time of year again. Leaves changing color (unless you’re in Texas), football of the professional and college variety (high school too, again if you you’re in Texas), and of course, turkey. My family is full of Thanksgiving traditionalists who look forward to eating turkey with friends and family during the holidays, but every year the conversation invariably becomes dominated by discussion of tryptophan, and the inevitable food coma that awaits us. But what is tryptophan?

Tryptophan is one of the 22 standard amino acid building blocks of the proteins in our body, and is part of many of the foods we eat. Contrary to popular belief, it is not present in much higher amounts in turkey (relative to other meats). However, the carbohydrates we of course need to consume to enhance the flavor of the turkey may be the culprit. This wonderful summary on the wikipedia page discusses how the carb-heavy meal spikes insulin levels, which leads to an increase in tryptophan absorption that eventually results in an increased production of sleep inducing melatonin.

Since it is hard to post such an elaborate explanation in 140 characters, we were curious what resources physicians pointed to regarding tryptophan and diet.

42% of physicians discussing tryptophan on Twitter did the noble things and shared a link to either a webMD article, a docsconz blog post, a huff-post article, or any number of other articles that gives a very thorough explanation of the turkey and tryptophan myth.

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22% of physicians discussion tryptophan on Twitter took a different approach, and shared links to articles such as this one that discussed how maintaining tryptophan levels is an important part of good sleep. I can attest to a night of wonderful sleep after a turkey dinner, waking up rested and ready for Black Friday sales.

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From everyone at MDigitalLife – Happy Thanksgiving!